What I’ve Been Reading

Here in Canandaigua, there are less than 25 days of school. While I’ve been busy with planning and managing IB exams, a professional development session for Regents exam week, preparing end of year technology integration documents, writing a presentation on blogging and personalized learning, and final units and projects for IB 12 and English 103, I’ve managed to squeeze in a few new books that I thought I’d share.

While there’s a great deal of energy spent in the taking care of all the end-of-year stuff, there’s also some time when I’m saying, “Next year…” As we reflect on what’s happening right now in our classrooms and schools, those moments come when we start to lay the ground work for changes we’ll make when September comes around. With that in mind, these books gave footholds for things that I want to be experimenting with as I move into the summer, and fall.

Below are several loose goals that I’m thinking will drive my work next year and the books that will help.

  1. Teaching composition through the design thinking process:

Read Gamestorming.

gamestorming

This is definitely not a cover-to-cover read. Take a look at the first chapters, and then surf the activities that come after. There’s lots here.

Gamestorming is a book of games and activities facilitators can use for individuals and groups to get them thinking. It’s a simple as that.

Games are grouped into different categories, such as opening, exploring, and closing. All are shaped around design thinking. For the English and composition teacher, there are lots of potentials for helping students to generate topics and to spend time iterating on these ideas.

Last week, I passed the book along to my wife because she does work in human resources, leadership coaching and professional development. This isn’t just an educational book, it’s a book for anyone who wants to create participant-centered thinking spaces in classrooms, in training, or in strategic planning.

2. Asking what we really mean by engagement, how to get kids producing evidence of their engagement, and building a culture of engagement in the classroom.

Our professional development coordinator connected me with Fisher, Frey and Quaglia’s Engagement by Design. Fortunately, she also was able to connect several of us through a Zoom meeting last week with Doug Fisher.

engagement

This books prompts readers to think beyond behavioral engagement and consider how we cognitively engage behavior in learning spaces.

The other book with tie-ins to engagement and classroom culture is The EduProtocol Field Guide: 16 Student-Centered Lesson Frames for Infinite Possibilities.

eduprotocol

Teachers, if you are going to read one book this summer about creating culture and getting students to engage in the work, this is the book for you. The protocols are simple, straightforward and with clear steps for how to do them in the classroom.

3. Technology integration to have students become creators (and really practice the whole 4C thing):

Another book that gives some detailed processes and protocols for thinking about integrating technology paired with the four-Cs, look to Cultivating Communication in the Classroom by Lisa Johnson (@TechChef4U). Because I’m hoping to sharpen instruction around presentation, use of social media, portfolios and curation, this book explores each of these areas with guiding questions for teachers to consider what skills are needed for each area and clear how-tos for a range of ways we build digital communication skills in our students.

Final thoughts:

Each of these books provide ample meat to drive summer thinking and planning. I’m looking forward to looping back through these books in late July and August as I start planning the next school year.

Monitoring Progress in Schoology

I spent time this week working my way through Monica Burns’ new book #FormativeTech: Meaningful, Sustainable, and Scalable Formative Assessment with technology.

In this book, Burns’ writing meets the needs any educator, be it the new teacher wanting to get a handle on the importance of formative assessment, the teacher new to technology looking to leverage the power of apps, or the teacher who sees themselves seasoned in both formative assessment and technology’s power to get feedback from his or her students.

I’m leaving this book with this thought: We cannot talk about formative assessment enough. According to Fisher and Frey, we need to engage in formative assessment every five to ten minutes (qtd. in Burns loc. 246). I’m staggered by this.

As I’ve written about before in my blog, as a technology integrator, I’m working to find ways to continue to use the tools we know how to use to do the things we want, rather than find new tools that we have to learn, purchase, and use with students. At Canandaigua, we’re continually finding new ways to put Schoology to use to help us with this.

Below is a short Tech Tip I made to help teachers see how we can use Schoology as a formative assessment tool when working with them on long-term projects.

It’s no new news that to use technology effectively, it needs to be driven by solid pedagogical objectives. When I said, above, that we can’t spend enough time talking about formative assessment, I mean it. We can help teachers see the power in tools like Schoology, Schoology assessment, Kahoot, Quizziz, Recap, Mentimeter by reminding them that constant check-in with students is necessary.

 

 

Helping Them Navigate the Fake News Conundrum

Part 1: The Instructional Stuff

So, I came to the part of English 103 when we teach evaluative writing. This culminates in students creating Annotated Bibliographies on the sources they’ve been reading for research.

Leading up to this, we examine criteria associated with evaluation of sources, and how authorship, currency, domain, evidence impact the validity of sources and arguments.  We explore various resources on the web for collecting source material–students compare Google, online databases accessed through our library, the DMOZ, and Google News. They consider the kinds of information they find in each of these spaces and how each of these tools might be valuable in different research contexts.

These activities are par for a course on research. But, I had a couple of other things in play this year that forced some additional class time, but opened up some powerful conversations. More on this in Part 2, below.

First, I am working on my Common Sense Media (CSM)Teacher Certification, so I was looking to bring in instruction in that focused towards this end, and incorporated some parts of the vast wealth of resources found at commonsense.org. I would say this is one of the go-to places for developing media awareness and literacy. As an educator, if you are trying to figure out how to work with your community, you have to start here.

Second, I wanted to do work with students around the concept of fake news. I wanted to help them define what this is, how to spot it when it’s happening. I wanted to bring into the conversation words like perspective and bias. At the start of this conversation, students let me know that this was a topic that they were very much interested and concerned about. Many felt the inability to detect fake news or how to separate inaccuracies and falsehoods from

At CSM, they have a set of pre-created lessons on Fake News, which culminate in student making web-based products called “Digital Bytes.” I found one of these units on Fake News. However, I wasn’t too keen on just sending my students there, so I borrowed their material and repackaged and organized it in Schoology.

Screenshot 2018-03-23 at 10.37.21 AM

My

This allowed me to be guided by the CSM materials, use their ideas and videos as a jumping off point while giving it to students in a format they were familiar with.

What we did:

  1. Watched videos on internet hoaxes, and then had a discussion in Schoology focusing on our own experiences with sham stories and the internet.
  2. Did close readings and analysis of “fake news stories,” and students generated lists of characteristics of fake news. We combined these lists into a master list of “fake news” characteristics.
  3. Created Google Sites of fake animals, like this one about the Northwest Pacific Tree Octopus, and students had to use a required number of “fake news” characteristics. They published these sites so that peers could read them. These are available for world-wide consumption, because Sites allows for the audience to be inside of our school domain.
  4. Students went on to engage in evaluation of sources.

Looking back on this, I feel like this is some of the most important work I did with students all year, and I’m getting to the part that was super important. Students started this exploration saying that they weren’t sure how to identify fake news, to creating lists of characteristics, to producing it.

Part 2: The Interesting Part

The instructional stuff came a week after the mass shootings in Parkland, Florida. The media was full of debate about school shootings, gun control, school safety, arming teachers with firearms.

It’s easy in the midst of all of this washing over us, to forget that children are getting the same exposure.

Our superintendent, Jamie Farr (@BravesSupt), was interviewed by local TV as part of coverage of how schools were operating in the wake of what happened in Florida. Shortly after the story aired, Farr wrote to community members, expressing dismay at how the coverage was inaccurate to his interview.

We were directly in the midst of fake news. My colleague, Tallie Giuliano (@TallieGiuliano) suggested we invite Farr to our classes to discuss the media coverage and his reaction. We did.

What followed was a day of kids asking really good questions about media, school safety, mental health. Their questions were thoughtful, concerned.

mediastudy

What started as an intended look at source evaluation and writing an annotated bibliography, turned into an experience of critical reading on the web, media creation, real-world connection, working with adult-expert speakers, and thinking about our consumption.

Submitting Assignments in Schoolgy

Variations on a theme.

There are several ways to give assignments when we create them in Schoology. My experience with this currently is that these options are great; however, they are ever so slightly nuanced, and it takes teachers new to working with assignments time to understand these differences. Primarily the differences are in giving feedback, and how students engage in revision. 

We’re going to look at two ways to do this: Schoology Assignments & Schoology Assignments with Google Drive integration.

We’ll take a look at the how to set them up, the student view, as well as the ways feedback works in each.

Schoology Assignments:

Students can upload from a desktop computer, can create inside of Schoology, or can submit from resources along with a  built in app, like Google Drive, which is how most of our students perform submissions on their Chromebooks.

As teacher, when you get such an assignment submitted:

  • Can provide feedback using an annotation tool which allows for highlighting, on screen marking and commenting.
  • A draw back…for teacher who want students to revise work based on comments, students cannot make changes to “submitted” document. Students can view comments, but have to go back to the original assignment to make edits and revisions._3 Ways to Submit an Assignment in Schoology

Schoology Assignments with google drive integration:

I’m going to share my personal practice when I use this feature. Before going into Schoology to create the assignment, I go into Drive, and to the folder where I store materials for the class and the unit I’m working on.

I’ve made it a habit to start assignment directions in Google drive, making sure to give the assignment a specific title. I’ll spend time in the Doc writing and revising the assignment, until it’s ready for my students.

If I’m having the students answer questions, I’ll give the questions, and a direction that tells them to begin their answers in the space between the question. If it’s an essay, I’ll give a direction that says “Start the Essay on the Next Page.” I do this because in digital environments, not only do we need to give directions about the knowledge they need to demonstrate, but also the procedures for how to complete the work.

With this done, I’ll now go into Schoology, open the folder, where I want to place the assignment, add the assignment, but I click the Google search for the assignment title, and insert it.
This makes it easier to track assignment progress and completion, give feedback in the moment, and share work on a smart board, projector, or Google Cast for Education.

_3 Ways to Submit an Assignment in Schoology (1)


_3 Ways to Submit an Assignment in Schoology (2)


Drawbacks:

  1. Here I don’t have the Schoology annotation tools. I can’t easily line-edit or use editing symbols that I might on a piece of paper.
  2. Most of the feedback I give in this system, is through making comments in the margins, at the top or bottom of the doc.
  3. Additionally, we’ve found that when students review their docs, they assume that clicking “resolve comment” is enough to fix your suggestions or edits.
  4. In co-taught classrooms, the teacher who created the assignment will only be able to see the student work.

There isn’t one right way to give assignments in Schoology. It’s nice to have two ways to do this for different situations.

Here’s a comparison of the two kinds of assignment submissions. 
Remember that working in an LMS like Schoology is a learning process. How you use it will evolve as your understanding of how it will helps you grow, and how it will serve your students.